Under stay-at-home directives, relationships are being put to the test

Paul Kurtz
March 25, 2020 - 6:52 pm
John and Sarah Gary.

Paul Kurtz/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Many relationships are being put to the test as we all try to adjust to stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders. 

"We’re fine. Yeah. We’re working and we haven’t killed each other yet," said John and Sarah Gary, who, like everyone else, are trying to navigate the uncharted territory of working and spending time together at home.

But this is also new ground for marriage and family therapists. 

Dr. Erica Wilkins, a marriage therapist, said couples are going through a huge transition that will require a lot of communication and negotiation in order for this temporary arrangement to succeed. 

“The first thing to do is to be able to respect each other's space. To be able to say, ‘okay, while we are in this together, we are also individuals who need to thrive individually and thrive as a couple,’ ” Wilkins explained. 

When it comes to doing fun stuff, Wilkins said to look for things you both enjoy, and be creative.

“There are wonderful activities that are being released in cyberspace such as Broadway is offering shows for free. You can take museum tours virtually all over the world. Other things you can do together is engage in healthy types of activities, like yoga at home,” she added. 

Bickering is inevitable, but she said there are ways to prevent situations from escalating.

“Really focusing on ‘I,’ using ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ and blaming,” she advised.

Also, stay away from name calling and minimizing the other person's feelings. She looks at this situation as an opportunity to strengthen relationships, but Wilkins also recognizes that relationships that were already shaky before the lockdown was implemented may have a tougher time surviving.

“I think it’s fair to say that if folks are already in distress, any more stress that’s inserted into the relationship is going to exacerbate what was already pre-existing,” she said.